viernes, 29 de marzo de 2013


There is a song by Swedish heavy metal band Tiamat. No explicit literary allusions are found in the lyrics, but the song still sounds and reads like a nineteenth-century poem:


Recently, I read a folktale that I woud like to share with you readers...
The story is a widespread one, about a marriageable princess (young, beautiful, and powerful as usual) with thousands of suitors, who would give her heart away to the one who brought her a blue rose, which does not exist in nature and could not obtained artificially in those days. The quest was, obviously, a test of character.
And so, the most confident of all suitors showed up at court, each with a different likeness of a blue rose.
Let the tale speak for itself:

"Another of the suitors, whose name I have forgotten, was a warrior and extremely brave; he mounted his horse, and taking with him a hundred archers and a thousand horsemen he marched into the territory of the King of Five Rivers, whom he knew to be the richest king in the world and the possessor of the rarest treasures, and demanded of him the Blue Rose, threatening him with a terrible doom should he be reluctant to give it up. The King of the Five Rivers, who disliked soldiers, and had a horror of noise, violence, and every kind of fuss (his bodyguard was armed solely with fans and sunshades), rose from the cushions on which he was lying when the demand was made, and, tinkling a small bell, said to the servant who straightway appeared, "Fetch me the Blue Rose." The servant retired and returned presently bearing on a silken cushion a large sapphire which was carved so as to imitate a full-blown rose with all its petals.
"This," said the King of the Five Rivers, "is the Blue Rose. You are welcome to it." The warrior took it, and after making brief, soldier-like thanks, he returned to his prospective bride's palace, claiming that he had brought her the wished-for blue rose.
The Princess took the precious object in her hands, and after examining it for a moment, said: "This is not a rose at all. It is a sapphire; I have no need of precious stones." And she returned the stone to the warrior, with many elegantly-expressed thanks. And the warrior went away in discomfiture. Many other suitors (foreign rulers, merchants, courtiers...) failed as well. All of them sought in various ways for the Blue Rose. Some of them travelled all over the world seeking it; some of them sought the aid of wizards and astrologers, and one did not hesitate to invoke the help of the dwarfs that live underground. But all of them, whether they travelled in far countries, or took counsel with wizards and demons, or sat pondering in lonely places, failed to find the Blue Rose. After this there was no one in the whole country who ventured on the quest of the Blue Rose. Until a certain passing-by wandering minstrel appeared at court. One evening he was playing his one-stringed instrument outside a dark wall. It was a summer's evening, and the sun had sunk in a glory of dusty gold, and in the violet twilight one or two stars were twinkling like spear-heads. There was an incessant noise made by the croaking of frogs and the chatter of grasshoppers. The minstrel was singing a short song over and over again to a monotonous tune. 
As he sang he heard a rustle on the wall, and looking up he saw a slight figure, white against the twilight, beckoning to him. He walked along under the wall until he came to a gate, and there some one was waiting for him, and he was gently led into the shadow of a dark cedar tree. In the twilight he saw two bright eyes looking at him, and he understood their message. In the twilight a thousand meaningless nothings were whispered in the light of the stars, and the hours fled swiftly. When the East began to grow light, the Princess (for it was she) said it was time to go.
"But," said the minstrel, "to-morrow I shall come to the palace and ask for your hand."
"Alas!" said the Princess, "I would that were possible, but my father has made a foolish condition that only he may wed me who finds the Blue Rose."
"That is simple," said the minstrel, "I will find it!" And they said good-night to each other.
The next morning the minstrel went to the palace, and on his way he picked a common white rose from a wayside garden. Once in the throne room, he claimed that he had found the real Blue Rose.
The Princess took the rose in her hands and said: "Yes, this is without doubt the Blue Rose." And, when courtiers and ladies spoke against her word, the young and dashing minstrel told her that they couldn't realize it because all of them were colour-blind.
So the minstrel married the Princess, and they settled on the sea-coast in a little green house with a garden full of white roses, and they lived happily for ever afterwards."

The rose of love didn't need to be blue, but to be offered with true love, and not with selfish intentions of greed, ambition and lust for power. A cold rose of stone is less precious to the pure-hearted than a live flower. So do they prefer a warm heart to a cold one.
Many fairytale husbands are torn apart from their wives by the call of duty, to return with heavy hearts and dizzy heads. They usually find their wives and children in exile, accused of crimes that they didn't commit. This problem has affected Othello and the spouse of the Maiden Without Hands, to name two of its victims. Some of them do not come home from the wars.
Machiavelli once said that it is better for a ruler to be feared than to be loved. Ever since, many great leaders have followed his advice by scaring their subjects away from contradicting their decrees through public executions and invading nearby lands to increase their power: Philip II, Kaiser Ferdinand II, Napoleon Bonaparte, and all the Fascist and Communist dictators of the latest century. 
"Love thine enemy", someone had said centuries before Machiavelli. And those words, after all those wars and revolutions, repression and bloodshed, have proved to speak louder than the Renaissance thinker's. The sapphire rose was not blue, but purple: stained with blood. While the living white flower was dyed blue with true love and creativity, sprung from the fountains of Emotion and Reason, respectively.

domingo, 24 de marzo de 2013


Do you remember the post where I discussed literary allusions in the latest Pretty Cure anime, for instance, a heroine called Alice?
This is a follow-up to that post. I watch Pretty Cure once a week, following every new episode, and new allusions have popped up recently.
In the last episodes, Alice and her friends (kindly Aida and clever Rikka) have discovered the reason why they have become Pretty Cures (that is, warrior magical girls): they have to fight to deliver an invaded country, located in another dimension, and simultaneously prevent the invaders from taking over Earth as well (obviously, standard adventure anime/warrior magical girl anime fare).
Marie-Ange and her personal guard Makoto, after crossing the magic mirror.

Now the ruler of this conquered kingdom, Queen Marie-Ange, managed to escape to Earth (where she's living undercover in exile somewhere) through a magic mirror in the throne room. The "queen + magic mirror" binome makes me immediately think of "Snow White" and "The Snow Queen", not to mention Alice (in Book Two and some of the film adaptations, the heroine enters Wonderland through a looking-glass, that is, a mirror).


Easter is just around the corner.
Easter eggs, Easter bunnies, Easter nests and Easter baskets... dum-dee-dum...


Gustavus Adolphus: a Historical Poem. 
By Frederic Swinborne.

Against the backdrop of my favourite strategist's many encounters with the Catholic enemy ranks (from landing to Lützen, through Leipzig and the Lech), Swinborn narrates the love story of Rhineland damsel Hilde and Swedish lieutenant Erik. Is the young officer condemned to die on the battlefield where his liege lord will also meet an untimely fate? I won't tell you readers, so you will have to find out by reading this detailed and thorough epic, that gets inside the minds of Gustavus Adolphus, Tilly, and Wallenstein while giving accounts of the everyday lives of officers, privates, and camp followers in those troubled times.
Here's the link (you can download the book on .pdf):

lunes, 18 de marzo de 2013


British 1970s pop band Genesis drew, during the Peter Gabriel era, heavily from myth, literature, and sacred texts.
I first discovered this band at the age of eleven. "The Fountain of Salmacis", the last song in Nursery Cryme, was (together with "The Snow Queen") one of my favourite works at this stage in my life.

Whether the plot, narrated in Book IV of Ovid's Metamorphoses, is a folktale or a literary tale is still the subject of debate: the illegitimate child of two beautiful deities grows into a dashing young gentleman. The nymph of a spring falls for him, but he doesn't love her. Salmacis, for that is the nymph's name, doesn't give up and makes a wish to the powers that be (the gods in these stories, despite having human flaws, can do almost anything, regardless of the laws of physics)... and she is fused together with her beloved!

Here's the song, with lyrics:

Both the Salmacis story and "The Snow Queen" fired my imagination when I wrote "The Tale of Katinka". In its second (Swedish) part, there are interesting parallels: Gustav Adolf (as innocent as both Kay and Hermaphroditus), loved by a female pixie, loses all feelings he had for the titular heroine after having drunk from a spring that said pixie had deliberately enchanted.


Many a work of fiction has inspired the lyrics of a song.

For instance, who doesn't know the "Wuthering Heights" song by Kate Bush, that retells the story of the deceased tragic heroine, Cathy?


I have currently lost my muse.
Luckily, one can buy canned inspiration nowadays.

Exactly what it says on the tin.
And the fad of preserving intangible things doesn't stop at inspiration. A Czech genius has carried it even further:


"Inferno" means "hell" in Italian. Dante Alighieri's Inferno, Part One of a trilogy titled The Divine Comedy, details the author's descent to Hell in company of his favourite poet Virgil. They are headed for Paradise, where Dante is due to encounter his late girlfriend Beatrice.
Like The Fiancés, The Divine Comedy is read and discussed by Italian high-school students, and thus a staple of the national literary canon. Renzo and Lucia are as well-known as Paolo and Francesca, or Count Ugolino (some of the damned that Dante and Virgil encounter in Hell).
Oblivion's rendition of Inferno opens to the tune of "Old Macdonald had a Farm", but its mood darkens and lightens gradually:

All of Oblivion's sung literary parodies are awesome retellings of the original works that they are based on!


This naughty puppet "wood", unlike The Fiancés (see the former post), become an international celebrity, appearing more than once on the silver screen.
Oblivion's Pinocchio, its anti-hero played by a girl, sums pretty much up the famous literary fairy tale: both Geppetto and Jiminy Cricket are there, and so are Stromboli, the Fox and Cat, the Blue Fairy, and Lampwick. There is the same touch of humour that permeates Oblivion's renditions of Othello and The Fiancés (the Blue Fairy, for example, refers to Pinocchio's proverbial nose growth as "erections"!):


After doing Othello, Oblivion parodied The Fiancés. This novel, written by one Alessandro Manzoni, a contemporary of Verdi's, is considered a flagship of Italian Romanticism and mandatory study book for high-school students. Every Italian teenager knows I Promessi Sposi (that's the original title), and nine out of ten consider it a tedious book (the baroque style and the many digressions recall Hugo's Les Misérables).
Set against the backdrop of rural Lombardy during the Thirty Years' War, the novel is basically the story of two young peasants, Renzo and Lucia (both conveniently orphaned, beautiful and innocent), whose engagement is interrupted by thugs at the service of local squire Don Rodrigo, since he is passionately in love with Lucia. And thus, our hero and heroine are separated, encountering during their travels:
- A nun with a dark past, dark secrets and a darker future (Lucia).
- An innkeeper who acts as deviously as Monsieur Thénardier (Renzo). (NOT APPEARING IN THE PARODY)
- A sadistic and troubled aristocrat, obviously a dead ringer for Edward Rochester minus mad wife in the attic (Lucia).
- Revolutions led by poor young peasants and craftspeople against a corrupt governor (Renzo).
- A mismatched posh husband and wife couple: he's an eccentric scientist, while she's a hypocritical noblewoman who behaves like Madame Thénardier (Lucia). (NOT APPEARING IN THE PARODY)
Finally, all of the cast is reunited at the same hospital, due to a plague epidemic carried by German mercenaries. The bad guys die (they deserved such a fate), while Renzo and Lucia survive to marry and live happily ever after.

And here's Oblivion's rendition of The Fiancés:


This Italian comedy group called Oblivion is most famous for its literary adaptations, told entirely with song parodies (mostly of Italian songs, though you may recognize some by composers and lyricists of other nations).
So, I've decided to share them with you.
 Oblivion's first such play was a half-hour rendition of Othello (though drawing more upon Verdi's 1880s opera than upon Shakespeare's Stuart-era tragedy). It is not only a work of fine art, but also a real "popera", and the longest of their literary-musical travesties:


After having played the most devious landlady north of the Loire, Helena Bonham-Carter has been selected to don a torn bridal gown and perish in a chateau fire.

Helena Bonham-Carter as Miss Havisham
Readers of Dickens's Great Expectations are well-acquainted with the cold-hearted Miss Havisham, who harbours an irrational hatred for males in general since her bridegroom jilted her on their wedding day.
Old Miss Havisham, a more sympathetic villainess than Madame Thénardier, will be played by Carter.
The film, the newest retelling of the timeless Victorian classic, is due to premiere in Europe in late March 2013.

viernes, 15 de marzo de 2013


Andersen Prize winner Gianni Rodari has written a "bible" for fairy tale writers. I have, naturally, got this book, as well as countless stories by the same author: modern updates of "Snow White" (with a factory owner as the Wicked Queen Dowager/Stepmother,  his male personal assistant in the role of the heroine, and a mechanic nicknamed "Sevenwharfs"), "Hansel and Gretel" (with a twist ending: the baker we readers identify with the Wicked Witch adopts Hans and Greta and lovably cares for them, instead of enslaving or killing them), "The Pied Piper" (hired to rid 1970s Rome of motor cars), and "Little Red Riding Hood" (the girl goes to visit her aunt, wearing a green hood, she meets a giraffe instad of the Big Bad Wolf… a completely surreal update!). Not to mention a science-fiction "Cinderella", starring a seamstress on a planet with a republican government (though she swipes a spaceship instead of fetching a pumpkin carriage, she still gets President Charming!).

A couple of years ago, I decided to make an experiment with Chaucer's Canterbury Tales: transpose the most known ones into other settings à la Rodari. The still unfinished project consists of a 2000s Pardoner's Tale, set amidst teen drug users in my home district and warning against addiction, and an eighteenth-century Knight's Tale. The latter, "Ludwig and Károly", AKA "The Two Lieutenants", is the story I am going to discuss in this post.

So, the setting is changed to eighteenth-century Prussia. Chaucer's Theseus becomes Frederick the Great. The enemy kingdoms of Feminy and Thebes are merged and identified with Imperial Austria, and so are their rulers with Maria Theresa (who shares the former's matriarchy and the latter's conservatism). Emily becomes Agnetha von Reyter, the only daughter of a widowed fortress governor. And the two young prisoners taken after a lost battle are not only changed from medieval knights to modern lieutenants, but also more fleshed out than their Chaucer counterparts: Palamon becomes strawberry-blond and blue-eyed Austrian Ludwig von Sprüngel, while Arcite is transformed into raven-haired and black-eyed Hungarian Karl Bornemissza, Bornemissza Károly. They were not only named after Louis XIV and Charles VI, sworn enemies at the start of the century, but also after renowned nonsense writer Lewis Carroll. Unlike the heroes of The Knight's Tale, the titular two lieutenants of my version have a backstory: they are stepbrothers, raised together… but incredibly good friends and fond of each other, willing to share all that they have got. That is, until they are taken prisoner and fall for the governor's daughter…
The tournament is, quite obviously, exchanged for a gentlemanly duel between both rivals, but things turn out quite like in Chaucer's story: Károly shoots Ludwig in the left breast and causes him to fall unconscious on the grass, but the winner himself has been struck in the side, "in between the third true rib and the fourth one": a stream of blood gushes between Károly's lips, and an excruciating pain sears his chest.
Both duelists are taken to the fortress infirmary. "There was no blood on the Austrian's coat": his pocket-watch has stopped the fatal lead from piercing his heart. "Ludwig was alive, safe and sound". But Károly is not so lucky: pale and febrile, breathing with difficulty, he lays in bed between life and death. In spite of being young and strong, he ceases to breathe and closes his eyes for eternity after four long days of struggle. Before dying, he has told Ludwig and Agnetha that he loves them.
The young lovers' wedding and their departure (they leave Prussia for Austria, following their marriage) coincide with Károly's funeral. He is buried in foreign soil: beneath a modest cross that towers above the wildflowers on one of those lush Prussian meadows that once were swamps.
In the end, an older Ludwig and Agnetha couple, blessed with prosperity and children, returns to Her Ladyship's childhood home in rural Prussia. They carry an offering of briar-roses to said cross, which bears the inscription: "LEUTNANT KARL BORNEMISSZA".
"Then, they got back into the carriage, and they kissed in the autumn sunset", ends the story. With a true love's kiss that balances the melancholy of the evening and the feelings of guilt experienced by the married aristocrats upon Károly's grave.

But "The Two Lieutenants" is not only a retelling of The Knight's Tale, but also an allegory on Austro-Hungarian relations: The titular characters start out in perfect peaceful coexistence (it comes as no surprise that the story takes place during the reign of Maria Theresa). The appearance of a "Prussian beauty" (Prussia and other Protestant states during the Thirty Years' War) is the catalyst that triggers their disagreement. It is Károly who dies and is buried in foreign soil after quarreling with Ludwig. And Károly's funerary inscription is in German, with his military rank in said language and a Westernized name. The relationship between the central seat of a multiethnic empire and a subjugated nation is figuratively portrayed as a fatal case of (step-)sibling rivalry.


Since the 1810s, little girls have been forced to be demure.
However, there have always been exceptions to the rule, and I was one of them.
I am glad to see that, nowadays, caregivers are less disciplined than their Victorian predecessors.
There was a cautionary tale, "Romping Polly", in which a restless and active little girl was, after sustaining an injury, forced to lean on crutches.

I should be said that I once learned a similar lesson myself when I grew out of skipping in my teens.
Back then, such behaviour in me was regarded not as tomboyish, but as immature (it was a matter of age, not of gender).
It happened in Sweden, the day after Christmas Day. I was either 14 or 15 when, merrily and distractedly sauntering down the stairs to our cellar, I fell down on the floor. Luckily, I had only sprained my left foot. It took a lot of rest to recover.
And that is the reason why I limp when running.


Dear Katarina,

I hope the ties of marriage have not deprived you of masculine independence and activity. And I hope Gustav Adolf and you stay in love with each other in spite of all odds, for love is an incredibly fragile flower.
I also hope that you have adapted to Swedish culture. I am sure that you don't feel like an outsider,  a stranger, or a foreigner. Your spouse has taught you to speak and write in Swedish, and presumably in French and German as well.

To cut a long story short, I hope that you two live happily ever after. Because you two are worth it.

But I have to explain that this should not have been the way things turned out if I had written your story and his a year and a half earlier: Gustav Adolf would have been left amidst the fallen, bereft of life, on the fields of Poltava, his breast pierced by countless bullets and blades. While you would never have left the prisoner camp you called home as a child, married to one of its garrison's officers, and regret that your dreams of romance never would come true.

I was tired of tragedies, and I decided to somewhat change my style. So, I replaced my über-clichéd formulas with one from fairy land. You may have not heard of Gretel or Gerda, but my intention was to recreate a story like theirs: an active, dynamic, and independent heroine, who rescues her male love interest again and again.

I made you like the Creator made the first humans in the Bible: after my own image. And you were the only daughter of a dowager to fit your clever and determined personality: a character seen as the false heroine in traditional fairy lore, transformed into a Messianic heroine. 
Conveniently born at a decadent imperial court, then raised within the walls of Doubting Castle, you were meant to gallop free over the vast plains and through the tangled woods, heading always towards the setting sun, until you reached the place where your sweetheart had been born and raised, where Gustav Adolf was being mourned, after his disappearance, for nearly two years. If your home was Doubting Castle, his was the Palace Beautiful; if you were an only child, he was the eldest of four siblings; if you came from the barren steppes of Russia, he was raised in the lush, lovely Swedish heartland. 
But, as soon as your perilous journey out west had come to an end, you had to face the most difficult of all trials that awaited you two: Gustav Adolf had ceased to love you! The waters of an enchanted spring having passed the lieutenant's lips, his heart and eyes were hastily cooled, and he rejected you.
In spite of his disdain, you did not give up that easily: you were determined to start anew, as a poor farm girl thought by her employer to be German. If Gustav Adolf had been first to get used to struggle for survival during his imprisonment, the turn had finally come to you (remember that, despite this fact, both of you are and were aristocrats). But your patience, like everybody else's, has got a limit.
It wasn't until you were ready to give up, to open your veins in a fit of despair, that the spell on your beloved lieutenant broke, and he recognized you as the one who had given him back his home and freedom. The next day, merry wedding bells echoed over rooftops and treetops on the shore of Lake Vänern. You two were finally married!

Converting to another religion means, to such a curious and experienced soul, nothing more than a not losing social standing. And that decision of yours of trading the Madonna for money should be praised for the same reason: you are aware of the social changes brought by modernity.

Let's close this letter with the wishes that I gave you:
I wish you health, I wish you wealth, I wish you gold in store.
I wish you peace, and love, and hope, and not a hardship more.

The author of your story, who will always love you and those close to you,
Sandra-Elena Dermark.


In the Victorian Era, the cautionary tale emerged as a genre to teach children the difference between right and wrong, usually in a gruesome way: such stories featured naughty children whose faux pas were punished with either death, disability, or ostracism.

The most renowned Anglophone author of such cautionary tales about middle-class and upper-class children hoist by their own petards is the nowadays hardly known Hilaire Belloc.
His most horrible stories for misbehaving children include:

  1. The story of Jim, who ran away from his nanny at the zoo and was eaten alive by a lion.
  2. Self-explanatory. This one teaches that well-behaved children never leave their governesses in a crowd: even worse things than Jim's fate may happen to those who run away from their nannies.
  3. The story of Matilda, the girl who cried fire. This one is a modern update of an age-old fable. The risk of fire makes up for the lack of wild wolves in Victorian London, where our orphaned anti-heroine lives with her aunt. Matilda can't find any better pastime than calling the Fire Brigade every night her aunt goes to the theatre. Of course, she perishes in a real fire.
  4. The story of Rebecca Offendort, who slammed doors for fun and perished miserably.  Poor Becky died an untimely death when one of her door slams knocked a marble bust from a nearby shelf. The sculpture fell, in less than a second, on the little girl's head.

jueves, 14 de marzo de 2013


I am 100 percent sure you know this feeling.

Your only thought is "What should I do?" Or "How should I do it?". You feel like confined in a tight space, in the dark, frozen. Like a prisoner in a hostile dungeon.

If you are in such a dire strait, welcome to the point of perhaps return. Readers of Les Misérables may recognize this place as the Toulon Penal Colony, while readers of The Pilgrim's Progress refer to it as Doubting Castle.

But worse than the cold and the dark and the confinement is the warden, AKA Javert, AKA Despair. He is a tall and broad-shouldered gentleman with piercing eyes, who does not care for his prisoners and seeks to make their stay as dire as possible.

However, the warden may be defeated: One Jean Valjean succeeded in fleeing the Toulon Penal Colony, and pilgrims imprisoned in Doubting Castle did not only escape successfully, but have also proved to slay Despair.

Even though there are keys to the dungeon and swords to kill the warden, some prisoners prefer to stay within the dark and cold walls of doubt, menaced by their captor, as if they were tied together with the knots of Stockholm syndrome.

My own inner Javert/Despair is "whether others can be trusted or deceive me". I am so naive and socially challenged that I can't tell a truth from a verbal prank from a lie. Often I wish that I was a "living lie detector", like the hero of Lie to Me. I wonder where one can receive courses in lie detecting training. And this attitude leads obviously to fear of asking.
But, of course, it's far cozier to get back to my usual isolation and be completely self-reliant, fear of asking and all. To be reluctant to change one's ways. And this has nowadays become a pain in the neck to me.


The moral of the musical/novel The Wizard of Oz is pretty simple:

All four heroes believe they lack something they had got all along and they discovered while travelling together on their quest for the Wicked Witch of the West (or WWW, if you readers prefer to use an acronym).

Thus, the Scarecrow had got brains, the Tin Man had got feelings ("a heart"), the Cowardly Lion had got courage, and Dorothy had got the way to get back home (the other Wicked Witch's slippers, made of silver in the book and of rubies in the film). It took teamwork and a journey to discover themselves.


Pretty soon, I will have purchased the Marvel Comics version of Pride and Prejudice.

Lieutenant Wickham is portrayed in this one as a dashing young blond (yet he keeps wearing scarlet and a one-foot ponytail... sigh!).

The graphic novel, which can be found in comic stores, costs fifteen euros (in Spain).


As a matter of fact, I have never been a numbers person.

Maths was my least favourite subject. I was particularly terrified of long counts and sign errors (and, being a distracted person, such mistakes happen usually to me).
 When I chose the Translation degree, I sighed in relief upon taking the heavy eight-year-old loadstone of numbers off my chest. I was horribly naive.

For, now, a minimum word count is required in this blog project. I can't just count every single word while wondering if acronyms and fixed expressions count as one word or more than one.


As a matter of fact, fact and fiction tend to overlap.

Victor Hugo drew from contemporary (19th-century) criminal records when he created the Valjean plot of Les Misérables: anti-hero Jean Valjean is condemned to five years of imprisonment for stealing a loaf of bread to survive, mirroring then-ocurring real-life scenarios.

In our days' Spain, the beggar that broke into a Barcelona supermarket on the 9th of September 2009 (09-09-09!), and stole a French bread, was sentenced to half a year of imprisonment.

The current crisis was only dawning, and incidents such as this one were only the tip of the iceberg.
Nothing has changed in Catholic Europe since Hugo's days: the wealthy and powerful get away with all the money, while the poor lose their freedom for stealing their daily bread.

domingo, 10 de marzo de 2013


The latest continuity of Pretty Cure (a celebrated magical girl series) features a playing card theme and, quite obviously, a pair of shout-outs to Carroll's Alice books:

One of the pets that help the heroines transform into their magical selves, and the first one to show up: a rabbit (a pink one, not a white one, but nevertheless a bunny) that goes by the name of Charles (though pronounced "SHARR-le", as in French), perhaps named after Lewis Carroll.

And here is one of the four heroines. She might be cute, graceful, wealthy, artistic... but don't let the first impression fool you: she's incredibly strong when she loses her temper: the reason why she has got to practice hard self-control.
Her name? Alice Yotsuba (her surname means "four-leaf", as in four-leaf clover)


Something so original that only Monty Python could do it: Shakespeare's Julius Caesar on an Aldis lamp (in luminic Morse code!):

Starring Eric Idle in the title role.

sábado, 9 de marzo de 2013


I have previously mentioned a German Apollonius story in which Cerimon's precociously smart pupil goes by the name of Pandecta.
This name means "compilation" in Greek. And, Leipzig being the Oxford of the Continent for decades, the  humour commonly displayed by university students may here have a part to play (i.e. "Pandecta" as an in-joke for humanistic students at Leipzig).
The original story, in which the "discipulus aspectu adulescens sed quantum ingenio senex" was nameless, was there analysed in the late nineteenth century. I am sure that those two sophomores, a born Leipziger and a clergyman's son from Lützen, were well-acquainted with the story cycle.
The former would, by the turn of the century, be an internationally celebrated opera composer (Richard Wagner), while the fragile and reserved Lützener would be locked up in a lunatic asylum... but not before having proclaimed the death of God, killed by secularized and life-accepting humankind. Yes, he was the author of Thus Spoke Zarathustra.
Due to health problems, the young Friedrich Nietzsche also spent his childhood reading in bed, and he lacked social skills. Perhaps Wagner and other Leipzig classmates saw the bookish Lützener as a nerd, or perhaps as the pupil in the novel, "a young man, but possessing the wisdom of old age". Or perhaps as both?

viernes, 8 de marzo de 2013


If there is one of the plots in The Princess Bride that I find attractive, it's the one of Íñigo Montoya's revenge.
He just won't stop until he has pierced the heart of his late father's six-fingered slayer.
Plus, I find his final catchphrase so dramatic!:
"Hello! My name is Íñigo Montoya! You killed my father! Prepare to die!"


In the days of Charles V, there was one Basque village smith, surnamed Montoya, who was said to craft the best weapons in the Habsburg lands.
One day, a six-fingered foreigner from the far north asked him for a sword  that he could wield, given his extra finger.
Somewhat later, the six-fingered man killed Señor Montoya and went away.
But the legendary blacksmith had a son.
Íñigo, for that was the boy's name, was determined to avenge his father's death. In those troubled times, while earning a living as a mercenary for years, he tracked down and defeated every six-fingered fencer he could find.
So Íñigo Montoya became the most skilful fencer in all of Europe. And, when his reputation reached the royal court of the Baltic country of Florin, Chancellor Count Rügen knew that he needed to recruit such a swordsman for his schemes to succeed.
Little did Íñigo know that the Chancellor was six-fingered. Or that their rapiers would soon cross, because Rügen claimed the Spaniard's father's life.
Pretty soon, the halls of Florin would echo with a sentence that would become a legend:
"Hello! My name is Íñigo Montoya! You killed my father! Prepare to die!"
The Count would not live any longer. But the swashbuckler would.


Thus translates the name of Chamsous-Sabah, an Eastern girl-queen featured in the Michel Ocelot film Azur and Asmar. She has the run of her redoubtable palace, is taught by "the best preceptors in all corners of the world", and, unlike the common people, is not afraid of Frenchman Azur's blue eyes, can speak to him in his mother tongue, and thinks black cats don't bring bad luck.

Able to speak several languages, she constantly thirsts for knowledge, and challenges tradition and prejudice.  She has led a sheltered and solitary life with books and foreign adults for friends: all of her male relatives have either been poisoned by ambitious courtiers or slain on the battlefield. But, in spite of her age and gender, she is certain to outwit those who threaten her life.
Yet being the ruler of a vast empire does not mean she behaves like a little adult: she likes skipping and running as much as any ordinary little girl.
Chamsous-Sabah is courageous and optimistic. In her own words: "All the men in my family have either been poisoned or killed in battle, either against enemies or against each other. It's sad, but existence has got to come to an end. Now it's our turn to live and be useful!"
Based largely upon Queen Christina (transpose her from her medieval Eastern country to seventeenth-century Sweden and bleach her!: both are hyperactive and curious little girl-queens), she reminds me of myself and is thus one of my favourite fictional characters: when I got to know her, the traits that she shares with both Christina and me were revealed to be the same!
(I read some critics' remarks that Chamsous-Sabah, being an extraverted gifted and curious child, represents the future. Another critic, however, treats her as a symbol of "thirst for knowledge and curiosity for the diversity of the world." A third critic sees her as a personification of progress, an idea related to the future).
In spite of being merely a supporting character, she filled my eyes with tears: she reminded me of what I am and of those wonderful words I was once told: "If all people were like you, there would be no more wars!"
A rare combination of youth and erudition, that also echoes Shakespeare's lawyer lass Portia: so young a body, so old a mind, both in the same individual!
Thus, with a character I got to identify with, ends my cycle of posts on prodigies, aspies and ivory tower dwellers through the ages.


In the previous post, I mentioned Napoleon Bonaparte as a prodigy and prospective aspie.

During his teens, the young Corsican lieutenant obsessed himself with pharaohs, firearms, and The Social Contract by Jean-Jacques Rousseau. He could rather be found in the public library than in the tavern, all alone and reading a book than drinking brandy and playing cards in the company of his fellow officers.
The teenage Napoleon was a reserved and aloof young officer, lacking social skills, but eager to know more.
He would have been considered the regimental "nerd" nowadays.

Portrait of a young student lieutenant.

And here he is in full uniform, rapier sheathed, wig beneath his tricorn!

His fragile and effeminate appearance also contributed to Lieutenant Bonaparte's reputation as an aloof loner, frequently compared to a then-popular fairy tale character: he earned the sobriquet of Le Lieutenant Chat-Botté (pronounced "le lyöt-NAA SHA bot-TEE"): "Lieutenant Puss In Boots".
In love, he was obviously a shrinking violet. And his first love, Caroline-Louise de Colombier, who bestowed upon him the nickname of "Puss in Boots", was equally shy.

Prussian novelist Luise Mühlbach wrote, in the nineteenth century, a biography of Josephine that included also the life of her consort. When this story takes place, Napoleon is sixteen, stationed in Valence, and already considered one of the local outsiders:

Lieutenant Bonaparte memorial in downtown Valence.

"A life of labor and study, of hopes and dreams, now began for the young lieutenant. He gave himself up entirely to his military service, and pursued earnest, scientific studies in regard to it. Mathematics, the science of war, geometry, and finally politics, were the objects of his zeal; but alongside of these he read and studied earnestly the works of Voltaire, Corneille, Racine, Montaigne, the Abbe Raynal, and, above all, the works of Jean Jacques Rousseau, whose passionate and enthusiastic disciple Napoleon Bonaparte was at that time. 
Amid so many grave occupations of the mind it would seem that the heart with all its claims had to remain in the background. The smiling boy Cupid, with his gracious raillery and his smarting griefs, seemed to make no impression on that pale, grave, and taciturn artillery lieutenant, and not to dare shoot an arrow toward that bosom which had mailed itself in an impenetrable cuirass of misanthropy, stoicism, and learning.
But yet between the links of this coat-of-mail an arrow must have glided, for the young lieutenant suddenly became conscious that there in his bosom a heart did beat, and that it was going in the midst of his studies to interrupt his dreams of misanthropy. Yes. it had come to this, that he abandoned his study to pay his court to a young lady, that at her side he lost his gravity of mien, his gloomy taciturnity, and became joyous, talkative, and merry, as beseemed a young man of his age.
The young lady who exercised so powerful an influence upon the young Bonaparte was the daughter of the commanding officer at Valence, M. de Colombier. He loved her, but his lips were yet too timid to confess it, and of what need were words to these young people to understand one another and to know what the one felt for the other?
In the morning they took long walks through the beautiful park; they spoke one to another of their childhood, of their brothers and sisters...
The sweet idyl of his first love had, however, come to a sudden and unexpected end. The young Second-Lieutenant Bonaparte was ordered to Lyons with his regiment, and the first innocent romance of his heart was ended.
But he never forgot the young maid, whom he then had so tenderly loved, and in the later days of his grandeur he remembered her, and when he learned that she had lost her husband, a M. de Bracieux, and lived in very depressing circumstances, he appointed her maid of honor to his sister Elise, and secured her a very handsome competency."

This is the first post of the series about prodigies and early misconceptions about savants and aspies that I have now started. As an aspie, I feel both alarmed and surprised by all prejudices, both for and against my kin, that have historically existed.


This post continues with my discussion on prodigies, aspies and savants.
Until the mid-twentieth century, they were thought to have a much shorter lifespan than normal people, because their minds developed more quickly.
Renaissance and Baroque poets hated prodigies, comparing them to brittle and early-blooming cherry blossoms.
Maybe Queen Christina of Sweden and the young Napoleon suffered from an unstable state of health, but the "early-blooming" prejudice could be debunked from their cases, since both lived about five or six decades: the average life span of a person in those days.
On the other hand, a person combining the beauty and health of youth with a sharp mind and vast knowledge was and is an ideal often attained by role models: this combination was exalted in important people, whether Catholic saints, Protestant faith heroes (such as both Gustavus Adolphus and his daughter Christina), or secular revolutionary leaders (Napoleon Bonaparte).
To quote Kortekaas, this occurrence is "a much-loved commonplace, both in religious and secular literature". Ernst Robert Curtius christened this occurrence puer/puella senex ("elderly boy/girl"). In the olden days, aristocratic and royal children were dressed as adults and given a thorough education, and thus, the commonplace has also been described visually.


In stories of the Apollonius Cycle, there is a student of medicine who lives in a solitary house in the seashore of the region of Ionia with his classmates and their professor Cerimon, a worthy physician.
Despite being a supporting character, our young student is rather well-portrayed. The Latin original calls him "aspectu adolescens, sed, quantum ingenio, senex." An English translation conveys the meaning of this little portrait word for word: "a young man, but possessing the wisdom of old age." Another version goes: "a young man in appearance, but an old man in wisdom."

According to Kortekaas, this commonplace started in higher literature.

There are two German versions. Both describe the student as "vor allen seinem Schülern in der Arznei erfahren": "more experienced (at least, theoretically) in the healing art than all of his classmates". These versions are also the first to christen the character: the Viennese version calls him Machaon, while he is known as Pandecta in Leipzig.

In the 14th-century Heinrich of Neustadt version, he is called Philemon ("Filomein"), and described as:

"Kam der junge Filomein; 
Dan an der Kunst was er alt: 
Er hett synne manig valt.
Er was des Meisters Jünger ee."
In modern German: "Der junge Filomein, 
der an der Kunst alt war, 
und dessen Sinne viel Wert hatte". 
Young Filomein, 
who was old in the (healing) art 
and whose mind was worth a lot". 

Filomi der kunst reich
Zu manigem synne richtet er sich.
In modern German: "Filomein der kunstreiche 
zu vielem Sinne richtet er sich": 
"Filomein the skilful one 
resorts to his great mind".

A much earlier German translation, written by Richard Peters in 1904 Leipzig, describes this character as: "ein Schüler, dem Aussehen nach ein Jüngling, aber was den Verstand anging, ein Greis.": "a pupil, with the appearance of a youth, but, when it came to wit, an elder". 

The Leipzig version was arguably the one to reach Sweden in chapbook form, as the young man is named Pandecta in the Swedish-language tale compiled by Bäckström. However, he is described in Bellman's language as "en klok man, som i sin konst vida övergick sin mästare": "a clever man, who far surpassed his teacher in their (the healing) art" (Note the word "klok": "clever", i.e. learned, cognate of German "klug". It is used of the wealthy princess and her fiancé in Andersen's "Snow Queen" to describe their cultural level!).

In a German summary, he is only "ein Schüler des Arztes": No mention of him being learned.

On the other hand, the pupil is christened Machaon in the Elizabethan Anglophone novel The Pattern of Painful Adventures, by Laurence Twine, and he is referred to as "of yeres but yong, but antient in wit and experience". Or, in present-day English, "of years but young but ancient in wit and experience".

While searching the Web for Christ myth theory, I found another translation of Apollonius legend, in which the student, "the young man" I have compared with Nietzsche, Leibniz, Napoleon, Queen Christina, and me... was referred to as: "of youthful appeareance, but mature judgment". 

In the Gesta Romanorum:
[···] a pupil of the physician, a young man, but possessing the wisdom of old age [···]
What's more, Cerimon approves of him (called merely "the youth" and "the young man") like this:
"I approve your skill", returned he, "I magnify your art, and wonder at your prudence. 
Mark the results of learning, and be not ungrateful to science. Receive now thy reward [···]"
A footnote calls him: [···] this same wise youth [···]

In Gower's Confession, he is merely a "disciple", and his knowledge is sadly given to Cerimon himself (perchance Gower thought of a wise old man rather than a child/young prodigy as possessor of such knowledge).

The anonymous Spanish-language version, written in quatrains, uses different constructions to describe our prodigy: he is introduced to us as "un discípulo sabio y bien letrado": "a wise and well-educated student". Then he is called "el buen discípulo de gran entendimiento": "the good student, possessing great knowledge". A final remark on his mind: "El escolar fue bueno, un maestro valía": "The student was good (i.e. skilful), he was worth a master". The Spanish version retains the namelessness of the original's discipulus, not giving him any Christian name.

In the nineteenth century, Anglophone critic Smyth calls him Cerimon's "precociously smart pupil".

In William Shakespeare's seventeenth-century stage version Pericles, our supporting character is simply the First Gentleman.

A recent essay (published last year!) explains that "prodigious wisdom in ancient literature is often described by means of the puer-senex character".

This is the first post of the series about prodigies and early misconceptions about savants and aspies that I have now started. As an aspie, I feel both alarmed and surprised by all prejudices, both for and against my kin, that have historically existed.


Here is a beautiful translation from the Swedish of a nineteenth-century poem. 
I translated this little poem into English in August 2012,  Stenungsund Public Library, Västra Götaland Region, Sweden:


A seventeenth-century tableau by Carl Snoilsky
Translated from the Swedish by Sandra Dermark

Through fully draped black velvet curtains,
the sun casts a fine ray of light.
In that sole note of light and colour,
dust-bunnies dance and move aright.

There’s, day and night, a mourning lady
by sorrow always torn apart.
A golden shrine holds her sole treasure:
her late beloved spouse’s heart.

A little girl of six is reading
kneeling before her skirt, below.
In those large steel-blue eyes resides
a strange, enchanting, eerie glow.

She turns, and turns, and turns the pages
of her book, but no fairy tales:
“The Great Gustavus killed at Lützen,
yet Protestant glory prevails”.

Rarely, precocious, clever glances
dart from the pages forth and back,
so coldly and curiously resting
upon the weeping one in black.

Knocks on the door are heard, it’s opened
quite carefully, and then our clan
of two is observed from the threshold
by an objective gentleman.

He wears black tights on legs developed,
collar and cuffs are lined with lace,
a goatee streaked, gray, white and worthy,
on his aged, venerable face.

He salutes them just like a courtier,
trying the lady to relieve,
but something tells that she’s his vassal:
appearances do not deceive.

Tears doth the dowager respond in,
then the blond child, on bended knee,
the serious gentleman approaches,
addressing her: “Your Majesty”.


This is the third and final post on the Fourth Story of "The Snow Queen" that I will post.

The Fourth Story of "The Snow Queen" is a real tearjerker for me, because it reads like my own story: I am the kind of intellectual who shuts herself in her ivory tower and lets only a few chosen ones in.
Hailing from a sheltered and lonely background (autistic only child of divorced parents), I was and am stalked by members of the opposite sex, due to my economic status and voluptuous physique. I consider stalkers annoying, shallow little bastards who only care about absurd things like sex and drugs.

After reading "The Snow Queen IV", I usually read the Ovidian myth of Narcissus: a dashing young gent, the only son of a spring nymph, who would only have his equal for a partner... and was thus cursed to fall for his own reflection and the echo of his voice when he came to a certain pool to quench his thirst. Unable to reach the illusion he loved, and left alone by all suitors he had spurned, the blond lad slowly withered, until he became a flower.

These two stories read like the two sides of the same coin: what may happen at best and what may happen at worst to me when it comes to relationships. And when the yellow-petalled flower bows its chalice before the waters of the pool in the final lines, I burst into tears and release all my worries from my tightly-clenched chest.


Several critics have, naturally, interpreted the Fourth Story of the Snow Queen in different ways.
Here is a sample of different interpretations:

Fourth Story: The Prince and the Princess

[···] the boy who had passed the test set by the princess of that land, and so had married her and was now the prince. [···] into the palace and up to the bedroom where the prince and princess slept, [···] But the prince was someone else. However, the prince and princess were sympathetic and sent [···] on [···] way in a golden carriage, with plenty of beautiful warm clothing and dainty provisions.

Fifth Story: The Little Robber Girl

In a dark wood robbers attacked the carriage and killed the postilions, the coachman, and the footmen.

(No reference in the Seventh Story in this version)
Nu kan den så fortælle, at der har været mange friere til prinsessen, men ingen har vundet hende, før der en dag kom en lille person uden hest eller vogn, marcherende lige op til slottet. Han havde dejligt langt hår og skinnende øjne (Hans Brix mener, at H.C. Andersen her får sine barnlige læsere til at tænke på soldaten i "Fyrtøjet").
Nu kan den så fortælle, at der har været mange friere til prinsessen, men ingen har vundet hende, før der en dag kom en lille person uden hest eller vogn, marcherende lige op til slottet. Han havde dejligt langt hår og skinnende øjne (Hans Brix mener, at H.C. Andersen her får sine barnlige læsere til at tænke på soldaten i "Fyrtøjet").
Nu kan den så fortælle, at der har været mange friere til prinsessen, men ingen har vundet hende, før der en dag kom en lille person uden hest eller vogn, marcherende lige op til slottet. Han havde dejligt langt hår og skinnende øjne (Hans Brix mener, at H.C. Andersen her får sine barnlige læsere til at tænke på soldaten i "Fyrtøjet").

  1. Julius Ernest Heuscher, 2003: ..."At the court of the newly married prince and princess, she (Gerd) still remains trapped in a nebulous world of make-believe. Hearing the story of how the prince had gained the hand of his princess because he was the only one who loved her unselfishly, provides Gerd's undertaking with new courage, energy, and direction."
  2. Roni Natov, 2014:  Here, the princess "has read all the newspapers in the world and has forgotten what was written in them", suggesting that the world has not yet penetrated, both for good and for bad. She is still somewhat innocent and also somewhat ignorant. Her husband, the prince, came to her a commoner with boots that squeak, but became prince because he was not intimidated by her stature. 
  3. This section (the Fourth Story) dramatizes Andersen's attacks on royalty and servitude. Here, among royalty, Gerda (the heroine) learns to differentiate between fantasies and reality. Interestingly, dreams whirl about as strange shadows that "have come to fetch their royal masters". From royalty and privilege Gerd is thrown into the underworld...  Like bait, she is dressed from head to toe in the silk and velvet gifts of the princess and the prince, as she enters the dark forest... Immediately, the coachman, the servants, and the soldiers who had accompanied her from the royal castle are killed by highway robbers.
  4. Johannes Möllehave:

    der har været mange friere til prinsessen, men ingen har vundet hende, før der en dag kom en lille person uden hest eller vogn, marcherende lige op til slottet. Han havde dejligt langt hår og skinnende øjne (Hans Brix mener, at H.C. Andersen her får sine barnlige læsere til at tænke på soldaten i "Fyrtøjet"). han havde en ransel på ryggen,han havde en ransel på ryggen,
    han havde en ransel på ryggen, hans støvler knirkede,
    han var så klog, at prinsessen faldt for ham.
    Prinsen og prinsessen hører hendes historie og vil gerne give hende en guldkaret, så hun kan drage ud i verden for at finde ham. Nu haster det mere end nogensinde. Hun får varme støvler og en muffe, hun kan stikke hænderne ind i. Der er kusk, tjenere og forridere. Prins og prinsesse vinker.
    Nu kan den så fortælle, at der har været mange friere til prinsessen, men ingen har vundet hende, før der en dag kom en lille person uden hest eller vogn, marcherende lige op til slottet. Han havde dejligt langt hår og skinnende øjne (Hans Brix mener, at H.C. Andersen her får sine barnlige læsere til at tænke på soldaten i "Fyrtøjet").Nu kan den så fortælle, at der har været mange friere til prinsessen, men ingen har vundet hende, før der en dag kom en lille person uden hest eller vogn, marcherende lige op til slottet. Han havde dejligt langt hår og skinnende øjne (Hans Brix mener, at H.C. Andersen her får sine barnlige læsere til at tænke på soldaten i "Fyrtøjet").Nu kan den så fortælle, at der har været mange friere til prinsessen, men ingen har vundet hende, før der en dag kom en lille person uden hest eller vogn, marcherende lige op til slottet. Han havde dejligt langt hår og skinnende øjne (Hans Brix mener, at H.C. Andersen her får sine barnlige læsere til at tænke på soldaten i "Fyrtøjet").
  5. Il Teatrino de Mangiafoco, 2014: In the Fourth Story, in the story of the prince and the princess, [···] a young man who has married the princess of that country. [···] into the palace (reggia) of the princess. However, the prince is not Kai. But the prince and the princess, stirred by the story [···], decide to help her and they give her a carriage [···]. 
  6. Paul Binding, 2014: The Fourth Story - 'Prins og Prinsesse', 'Prince and Princess', breaks, or at any rate temporarily dissipates the tension [···] The newly married prince and princess in their castle have psychic appeal [···] The royal castle belongs to the temperate zone, in which Denmark lies. [···] The friendly prince and princess will provide [···] (appropriately enough) with fur boots for her entry into harsh northern terrain [···] Gerda visits the castle in the Fourth Story only because she is convinced [···] that the prince who won the princess through his clever liveliness must be none other then Kai. Wasn't he wearing for the fateful test-interview those [···] boots [···] creaking? [···] the young man in his bed, one built to resemble a scarlet lily and of a pair with his princess's (whose bed looks like a white lily). She (Gerda) responds warmly to the couple (even to the point of accepting the groom's offer that she gets into his luxurious bed once he himself has vacated it!) [···] "How good people and animals are!" Someone with natural virtue sees virtues in others, and receives goodness from them in turn. The prince and princess give [···] not only boots, mittens, and new clothes for the long journey [···] but also a carriage to ride inleave-takings are warm and a little sad, because [···] affection towards her helpers. [···] It (the ambush by robbers) could have happened very soon after the departure from the castle, or after several days (for the carriage is lined with delicious eatables). (...)  The royal couple themselves have gone travelling in foreign countries.
  7. Ada Bonora - 2012 :
    L’histoire du prince et de la princesse évoque un autre point de vue sur le problème des
    apparences : la princesse souhaite épouser non pas un prince élégant ou beau mais un
    prince aussi intelligent qu’elle. Elle a trop peur de s’ennuyer avec un homme qui ne serait
    pourvu que de belles manières et de prestance.
  8. Vivian Robinson, 1977: The world of the Fourth Story "represents riches or materialism, power, and artificiality. Here, Gerda (the heroine) sees the effects of court authority, the security of a place within the hierarchy of power."
  9. Wolfgang Lederer, 1986: The princess is a stage of female adolescent development: "the riddle princess who yearns for but fears womanhood and who therefore sets impossible tasks and obstacles for the men who woo her".
  10. (Lederer, full essay, 1986): "A virgin who will not surrender her virginity except to an exceptional man, one who can prove himself a real man by virtue of passing some special, difficult, and usually dangerous test. Over and over again this is the predicament of the virgin who wants to emerge from the flower stage (i.e. childhood) and to become a woman: she needs a man strong enough, courageous enough to overcome her own ferocious resistance and to help her conquer her fear of her own sexuality. In fact the demands of the riddle princess are well justified in both biological and psychological terms: a man fit to become a husband/father should be strong and clever, he should have proven himself (against other men, against nature, against his own fears and terrors) before a maiden may securely entrust herself and her eventual children to him. And if she is to trust him to be strong, he must at least be stronger than she, and must have proven it. [...] Her suitor must merely be able to talk to her without being overawed. She does not kill the man who fails; she merely exposes him to the ridicule of failure - but that alone would be enough to discourage many a man. It does not discourage the young lad in his creaky boots. [...] Both the boy and his shoes are tough and strong and unafraid to creak (to arouse ridicule) [...] She was thus sitting on a priceless jewel [...] We have no difficulty here in interpreting the "pearl" here both in parte and pro toto: it is her own jewel the princess is sitting on, and again: she herself is the jewel, the priceless pearl the young man wishes to win. [...] When they enter the bedroom, the chaste nature of the "arrangement" is confirmed. [...] The separate beds, shaped like lilies, and the fact that the bed of the princess is still white indicate that she is still a virgin. Is she then one of the "virgins" in the old, matriarchal sense - that is, a woman who remains sovereign over all men, who "gives herself" never more than sexually, who never commits herself and never belongs to anyone, and whose husband remains, at best, a consort? Or, more likely, is she herself still virgo intacta and the marriage unconsummated? [...] The riddle princess who yearns for but fears womanhood and who therefore sets impossible tasks and obstacles for the men who woo her. This constitutes a delay and a hesitation; a moratorium in which many a maiden has remained well beyond the fading of her charms, and beyond all hope."
  11. Francesca Matteoni, 2007 : "The Fourth Story displays ideas of knowledge and fulfillment."
  12. Wendy Donawa, 2003: "An opulent and learned court, the princess of which is so accomplished that she has read all newspapers in the world and forgotten them again. The courtiers, although elaborately ritualistic, are kindly too, in their own way [...] But there is something effete and bloodless about this court too, its inhabitants so elaborately learned, but shielded from the untidy vigour of daily life. So impotent are they that at night the sleeping courtiers cannot even dream without assistance from the animal dream world. The court’s refinement is not really Leah’s logopoeia, a dance of the intellect; it doesn’t have the energy and sinew to be a poetics, a making, at all. It is not a house of being; it cannot be provoked. And how might this courtly image speak to our curricular concerns? Any educational movement, to have vigor and longevity, must have intellectual and theoretical underpinnings, but what of ever-more-refined, subtle and self-referring conceptual ramifications that eventually seal themselves off from the active domains in which they should be embedded? To be heard in the halls of high theory,” says Patti Lather (1996: 526), “one must speak the language of those who live there.” But to work with teachers in the difficult world of practice is to become aware of a current of impatience with academia’s insistence on strong theoretical curricular grounding. Let the wordspinners stay trapped in the palace of discourse with its elaborate protocols of tenure and promotion, say those in the field; let them stay trapped with the princess who has read all the newspapers in the world and forgotten them again. The provisional nature of “civilization” and the insufficiency of pure theory is shown by the next episode in the tale. [...] If the court is an elegant dream, the robbers’ castle is the cannibalistic shadow stuff of nightmare. Against the orderly refinement and decorum of the court, Andersen sets actual, animating sources of power: violence, savagery, appetite and drive unfettered by law or scruple."
  13. Megan Croutch, Strong Female Characters, 2013: "[···] another fascinating female character: a princess who is so clever that “she has read all the newspapers in the whole world, and has forgotten them again.” This princess decides to get married, but explicitly states that her prince will be someone intelligent and articulate, a man “who knew how to give an answer when he was spoken to--not one who looked only as if he were a great personage, for that is so tiresome.” She ends up choosing a suitor who had no intention of marrying her, but merely entered the castle in order to hear the princess’ wisdom. She chooses a husband who admires her brain, someone who, unlike the actual suitors, did not seek to win her but merely to hear her and enjoy her intellect.
    The transition from the princess’ castle to the robbers’ woods marks the apparent shift from civilization to barbarism, from Disney-style aspirations to Grimm, violent reality." 
  14. Lisa Lieberman, 2008: "The prince and princess who took pity on her were completely out of touch with reality. They thought they were doing Gerda a favor by outfitting her with a golden coach complete with a coachman and footmen and outriders, all wearing golden crowns. The minute she left the palace grounds in this lavish get-up, robbers attacked the entourage, stabbed the servants, and looted the gold."
  15. Unknown Danish essayist, 2005: "(The young man) seems to be more rational than emotional. [...] There is not much real nature at the palace either. The bedchamber is riddled with flowers, but they are all artificial. [...] Like in "The Nightingale", we're speaking of a copy, an imitation, of real nature. Truly in precious metals, but does not even catch up with the original. [...] But the lifestyle lived at the palace is, despite lovely appearances, not suitable for a Romantic like Gerda. [...]  (In the end) we are made aware that the royals are "travelling abroad"; they have repressed the natural elements so effectively, that they have either disappeared or are simply no longer needed. [...] Andersen does not support any of the sides (courtiers/highwaypeople). The explanation is that neither the residents of the royal castle nor those of the highwaymen's stronghold have had a spiritual dimension to lean on. The princess and her consort, who worshipped Reason and for whom love was something rather provisional ("She started to chant that old song, which starts: Why shouldn't I wed?") are nearly completely secularized. The closest thing they have to spirituality is that they have a room of pink satin, with artificial flowers decking the walls, and that the golden carriage they offer shines like the sun. The link to innocent faith, that could have [...] given life at the palace a little meaning, is nowhere to be found."
  16. ...a princess who has announced she will marry any young man who can come and talk to her as though he were at home. Most young men became so nervous at trying that they failed, but one lad finally appeared and said to the palace guards, "It must be boring standing on the stairs; I'm going inside." the palace,... only to discover the prince... Very nice he is, as is the princess, and they listen to the tale and offer to outfit the trip north. "How good they are, human beings" , to remember that everyone met on the journey has been as helpful as he or she could be. ... and the snow queen can't be killed, and it takes ... plus... a prince, a princess,... just to release the lad with the glass in his eyes and heart.
  17. Anonymous blogger explains that supporting characters use power in different ways: "a clever princess who contrives to marry a man who is her intellectual equal".
  18. Oxford Fairytale Companion: "an assertive princess".
  19. Caitlore, 2013: "[···] a lonely Princess.  Men come from all over to win her hearts, but have no such luck. [There was one suitor] who went to the princess not to woo her, but to hear wisdom. The Princess and "Kai" [Actually, NOT Kai] were taken with each other, and so he stayed."
  20. Laura Athena, in January 2013, has consecrated a shrine to the female cast of "The Snow Queen", devoting one of the altars to my favourite supporting character, whom she defines as: "a princess of surpassing cleverness and beauty":

    The princess is a supplementary character who only appears in one of the chapters of the Snow Queen story - but she is nonetheless an admirable and inspirational female character, whose story hints at a much longer and grander untold narrative.
    "In this kingdom in which we are now sitting, lives a Princess, who is so immoderately clever; but then she has read all the newspapers that are in the world, read and forgotten them again, so clever is she. Lately she was sitting on her throne, when she began to sing, and the theme of her song was "Why should I not marry?" "Well there is something in that, she said, and so she determined to get married; but she must have a husband who knew how to answer when spoken to, not one who could only stand there and look grand, for that is too stupid."

    What a fantastic introduction to a character! And what a refreshing change from the fairytale standard of princesses being first and foremost beautiful! The Princess decides on her own that she wants to get married, and she then goes on to specify what kind of a husband she is looking for - one who is intelligent, unabashed by royalty, unafraid of her power and one who "feels at home' with her.

    Andersen then goes on to describe the meeting of the princess and her husband-to-be:
    "He was merry and well behaved, but had not come at all to pay court to the Princess, but only to hear how clever she was. He had every reason to be satisfied with her, and she no less so with him."

    Again, what a refreshing subversion of the princess trope! The princess' chosen husband is bright-eyed and merry; a poorly dressed "little person" - a wanderer with creaking boots and a knapsack on his back. No dragonslayer he - but one who can match the princess' intellect, rather than impress her with feats of arms.

    As well as being clever, the Princess is later shown to be generous and sympathetic, willing to help Gerda into her new golden carriage herself without formality.Though her part is small in the overall story, and she and the Prince go away to "live in foreign places", one feels sure that such a great character must be the heroine of her own legend.
  21. Feminist Fangirl, winter 2013: [...] "a helpful princess who heads a side plot in which she will only marry a prince as intelligent as her (!!!)"
  22. Anglophone Wikipedia: "The Princess (Prinsessen), who desires a prince-consort as intelligent as she, and who finds Gerda in her palace. She helps Gerda in her search for Kai by giving her warm, rich clothing, servants, and a golden coach. The Prince (prinsen), formerly a poor young man, who comes to the palace and passes the test set by the princess to become prince."
  23. The Snow Queen, Italian comic book review by Pietro Lombardo: "The two ruling young people personify humility and inner modesty. The two young rulers also symbolize humble and lovely parents, who make, out of their children (Gerda), people with an identity and self-reliance of their own. ".
  24. Elspeth, on the fusion fic with Susan Richards Storm as the Clever Princess and Reed Richards as her consort: "[Thanks! I wish I could say I took Sue's characterization straight from canon in this (because a Sue who could canonically write love letters in Latin would rock), but I actually took most of it from the original fairytale, where the Princess is the smartest person in three kingdoms (so smart that she's "read all the newspapers in the world") and wants a prince who is her equalBut since Sue is married to Reed, she must have married him for his brains rather than, say, charm or tact or looks ­­ because Reed's not bad looking, but Sue is definitely out of his league:­­ hence making the Princess her.]"
  25. François Flahault, 1972:  un couple « riche » (constitué d'un prince et d'une princesse aussi spirituels et charmants l'un que l'autre) [···]
  26. The Prince and Princess are apparently the nicest monarchs in human history.  They give her the things she asks for, in a supremely grand and impractical way; the carriage is made of pure gold and lined on the inside with sugar plums and gingerbread, and the coachman and footmen are outfitted with gold crowns.  So, basically flashy ostentatious gold everywhere.  Sounds like the whole getup would be awfully tempting for highwaymen and robbers...   
  27. A study guide

    4. The Prince and Princess 

    In the kingdom there lived a very clever Princess. The Princess decided she should get married, but she wanted to find someone who wouldn’t just stand around and be boring, or be intimidated by the grand castle. She wanted someone who was clever and cheerful. Many people came for her hand but they all became frightened and tongue-tied when they entered the castle. 

    Then a young man came with long hair, intelligent eyes and poor clothes. He strode in to the palace and wasn’t at all shy. He was bright and interested in learning the Princess’ wisdom. They liked each other right away and he became the Prince. 

    ...into the palace that night...

    Shadows along the wall swished past and  it was the dreams of the Prince and Princess. They came to the bedroom and the Prince and Princess were each in a bed that looked like a lily.

    ...the leaves to peek at the Prince, and seeing his red neck...
    ...the dreams swept through the room, he woke and turned his head...

    The Princess woke and asked what was the matter. kind human beings were!  In the morning the Prince and Princess gave lovely clothes to wear and asked to stay with them. They gave a muff and boots and a coach of gold with coachmen and horsemen. Then they waved goodbye...

    ...asked her about the Prince and Princess. “They’re traveling in foreign lands,” said the robber girl.
  28. Lella Ravasi, 2006

    Il principe e la principessa principe che aveva sposato la bella principessa del castello, scelto tra mille per la sua intelligenza.
    ...nel castello, ...nella camera da
    letto dei nobili. “Sentiva un sibilo passarle accanto. C’erano come delle ombre lungo la
    parete: cavalli dalle criniere svolazzanti e dalle zampe snelle, giovani cacciatori e dame e
    signori a cavallo”.
    Ma il principe e la principessa furono molto commossi dalla storia...
    “– Addio! Addio! – gridarono il principe e la principessa,---

    E l’incontro con il principe e la principessa (elementi di maschile e
    femminile positivi) non distrae, ma riconnette, restaura le forze, dona i mezzi per
    continuare. Forse rappresenta la ricomposizione con una coppia genitoriale interna (di
    fatto assente perché i genitori nella fiaba non ci sono) e anche l’amicizia con parti di sé
    forti, il riconoscimento di un modo di essere prezioso. All’interno di questa storia ci sono
    poi immagini che raccontano il popolo delle ombre che viaggia nei sogni: sibili, cavalli e
    chimere che volano nella stanza, come ombre proiettate sul muro da una lanterna magica,
    fantasie che diventano vere, illuminazioni poetiche di quanto di visionario riempie non solo
    le nostre notti, ma il tempo degli incontri analitici, qualcosa che ricorda i versi di
    "Siamo della sostanza
    di cui sono fatti i sogni: e la nostra
    breve vita
    è racchiusa da un sonno."

    dai principi – che però erano in viaggio –
  29. Iben Sandra Svensson, 2008: The royal court and the prince and princess are to her representative of the dehumanized, materialistic lifestyle of nineteenth-century high society (DK. "spidsborgerlig" would translate as "grand bourgeois" or "high society"):
I eventyrets fjerde og femte historie... Til gengæld er historiernes tematiske
plan ret interessant, idet de er en klassisk romantistisk diskussion af den
spidsborgerlige civilisation over for naturen.

3.4 -­ Fjerde historie: Den spidsborgerlige civilisation

...til prinsessens slot, fordi den nykårede prins lyder som Kay. I slottets mange sale og gange oplever Gerda hoffets splittede forhold til deres egen natur. I dyb kontrast til den vældige blomsterhave er al bevoksning på slottet erstattet af simili:
”Nu kom de ind i den første sal, den var af rosenrødt atlask med kunstige blomster […] og nu
var de i sovekammeret. Loftet herinde lignede en stor palme med blade af glas, kostbart glas, og midt på gulvet hang en tyk stilk af guld to senge, der hver så ud som liljer […]” (s. 230-­‐231,
mine understregninger). gangene svæver herskabets drømme og længsler forbi – skilt fra
menneskerne, som et billede på, at de ikke er en organisk del af dem selv og derfor ikke bliver
udlevet. Gerdas drøm om at finde sin sjæleven er på ingen måde skilt fra hende, og da hun opdager, at
den sovende prins ikke er Kay, lader hun sine følelser få frit løb. Desværre befinder hun sig prinsen
og prinsessens sovekammer, hvilket skaber en del postyr. Da kongeparret hører hendes historie,
bliver de dog ikke vrede, men for at kragerne ikke igen skal forstyrre deres nattesøvn med
følsomme gæster, tilbyder de dem fast ansættelse ved hoffet. Prisen er blot deres frihed:
”>>Vil flyve frit?<< spurgte prinsessen, >>eller vil have fast ansættelse som hofkrager med
alt, hvad der falder af køkkenet?<< (s.231).
Kragerne takker ja, og der går da heller ikke lang tid, før de er så mekaniserede af den spidsborgerlige
levevis, at naturen i dem langsomt forsvinder:
”[…]den anden krage stod i porten og slog med vingerne, den fulgte ikke med, thi den led af hovedpine,
siden den havde fået fast ansættelse og for meget af spise” (s. 231).
Nu hvor kragernes natur er tæmmet, retter prinsen og prinsessen deres blikke mod Gerda.
Umiddelbar og lidenskabelig som hun er, står hun opposition til deres livsførelse, og derfor
skal hun tæmmes. De klæder hende nydeligt på, og da hun ytrer ønske om at forlade slottet,
foregår det en karet af guld ”[…] foret med sukkerkringler, og sædet var frugter og
pebernødder” (s. 231), så også hun kan forspise sig. Livet på slottet udtrykker et billede af en
materialistisk, spidsborgerlig livsførelse, der sætter mad og kostbarheder højere end kærlighed,
lidenskab og ægte natur. Dette billede står voldsom kontrast til den natur, som Gerda møder i
femte historie.

3.5 -­ Femte historie: Naturen
Da Gerda forlader slottet, når hun ikke længere end til en mørk skov, før hun bliver overfaldet og bortført
af en røverbande. det faldefærdige røverslot er der ingen senge af liljer 
eller palmeblade af glas,
men modsætning til den tæmmede og ufri natur på prinsessens slot, 
er den det mindste fri hos
Hverken [···] prinsen og prinsessen (den spidsborgerlige levevis) har kunne andet end at opholde
og forsinke hende.

Translators: Maria Tatar and Julie K. Allen
Annotations and commentary to illustration: Maria Tatar


The kingdom in which we are now living is ruled by a princess so uncommonly clever that she has read all the newspapers in the world and then forgotten every word printed on them --that's how clever she is. The other day, as she was sitting on her throne --and that's not nearly as amusing as people think --she started humming an old tune that went like this: "Why, oh why, should I not marry?"
"There's an idea," she said to herself, and she made up her mind to marry as soon as she could find a husband who would know how to respond when spoken to. She was not interested in someone who would just stand around looking dignified, because that would be really dull. And so she summoned her ladies-in-waiting, and, when they heard what she had in mind, they were delighted. "Oh, we like that idea!" they said. "We had the same idea just the other day!"
The next day's newspapers came out with a border of hearts and the princess's initials right by them. Any attractive young man, it said in the paper, was welcome to visit the castle and speak with the princess. The princess was planning to marry the man who seemed most at home in the castle and who spoke the most eloquently.
Young men flocked to the castle, and there was a lot of pushing and shoving, but neither on the first day nor on the second was anyone chosen. No one had trouble speaking well out on the street. The moment the men entered the gates of the castle and caught sight of the royal guards wearing silver and the servants wearing gold and then reached the brightly lit halls at the top of the stairs, they were struck dumb. Facing the princess who was seated on her throne, they couldn't think of a thing to say and just repeated the last word she had uttered, which she did not particularly care to hear again. It was as if everyone in the room had swallowed snuff and dozed off. As soon as they were back outside, they had no trouble talking. People were lined up all the way from the town gates to the castle.
On the third day, a little fellow, with neither horse nor carriage, marched boldly up to the castle. His eyes sparkled, and he had lovely long hair, but his clothes were in tatters.
He was carrying a little bundle on his back.
When he marched through the palace gates and saw the royal guards dressed in silver and when he climbed the stairs and saw the servants dressed in gold, he wasn't the least bit daunted. He just nodded to them and said: "It must be terribly dull to stand on the steps all day long. I think I'd rather go inside."
The halls were brightly lit. Ministers of state and various excellencies were walking about barefoot, carrying golden trays. It was enough to make anyone nervous! The little fellow's boots began to creak loudly, but he wasn't at all afraid!
Oh, they creaked all right! But he was bold and walked right up to the princess, who was sitting on a pearl that was as big as a spinning wheel. All of the ladies-in-waiting with their servant girls, and the servant girls of their servant girls, and all of the chamberlains, with their servants and their servants' pages, were standing at attention in the hall. The closer they were to the door, the prouder they looked. The page to the servants' servants, who never wears anything but slippers, looked so swollen with pride that one hardly dared look at him.
That must have been terrible! And yet the fellow still won the princess?
They say he spoke well. He was dashing and charming. He wasn't there to court the princess but to listen to her wise words. He liked what he heard, and she took a shine to him too!
...into the garden, down the tree-lined promenade where the leaves were falling, one by one. After the lights went out in the castle, one by one... the back door, which was standing ajar.
...on the staircase. A little lamp on a cabinet was burning brightly.
"It feels like someone is on the stairs right behind!"
...and something rushed past like shadows on a wall: horses with flowing manes and slender legs, gamekeepers, lords and ladies on horseback.
Those are nothing but dreams! They come and take the thoughts of their royal highnesses out hunting, which is good because then one can get a better look at them in their bed.
...the first room, which had walls covered with rose-coloured satin and painted flowers. The dream shadows rushed by again, but so quickly that one did not have a chance to see the lords and ladies. Each room was more magnificent than the next --almost overwhelming-- and then ... reached the bedroom. The ceiling in there looked like a huge palm tree with leaves of glass, priceless glass. In the middle of the room two beds that looked just like lilies were hanging from a massive stalk of gold. One was white, and the princess was sleeping in it. The other one was red, and if one bent back one of the red leaves, one saw the nape of a brown neck.
...the dreams galloped back into the room. He awoke, turned his head and---
The prince... Still, he was young and handsome. The princess peeked out from the white lily bed and asked what had happened.
"You poor dear!" the prince and the princess said.
The prince climbed out of his bed and let (Gerd) sleep in it. It was all he could do (for her).
"How nice people and animals can be."
...dressed from head to toe in silk and velvet stay at the castle and live a life of luxury...
(Gerd) was given a pair of boots and also a fur muff.
...a coach covered in pure gold drew up to the door. The coat of arms belonging to the prince and princess glittered on it like a star. The driver, the footmen, and the postilions --yes, there were even postilions-- were wearing crowns made of gold. The prince and princess themselves helped climb into the carriage and wished good luck. The carriage was lined on the inside with sugar pastries, and on the seats were plates piled high with fruit and gingerbread.
"Farewell! Farewell!" the prince and the princess called out.
They rode through a dark forest, and the carriage was like a torch. It shone so brightly that it hurt the robbers' eyes until they could stand it no longer.
"It's gold! It's gold!"they shouted, and they sped forward, seized the horses, and killed the driver, the postilions, and the footmen.
...and asked about the prince and princess.
"They're traveling in foreign lands," the robber girl said.


The clever princess sits on the throne with crumpled newspapers at her feet --all the newspapers in the world that she has read and forgotten. She wears clothing that sparkles and glitters.

41. that's how clever she is.
Andersen was a master of what is known as crosswriting, producing texts that are directed at two audiences: children and adults. The satirical barb at newspapers is embedded in a tale for children and adds spice for the adult readers.
42. border of hearts.
The border of hearts provides an interesting contrast to death notices, which traditionally have black borders. The sentimental touch is in the style of a romantic.
43. the man who seemed most at home in the castle and who spoke most eloquently. 
The princess is making somewhat unusual demands (no other fairy-tale princess seeks these qualities in a man), and Andersen may have invented these traits because they matched so perfectly his own strengths. He was, of course, an expert in making himself at home in the manors and castles of aristocrats and royals, and he prided himself on his eloquence and on the fact that he had provided Denmark with a "poet."
The riddle princess is found in myths and fairy tales the world over. These virgins execute suitors unable to answer their questions or to carry out assigned tasks. Portia, in The Merchant of Venice, is a milder version of the type, dismissing rather than decapitating the unqualified suitors. In his essay "The Theme of the Three Caskets," Freud meditates on the motif and shows how a story about making choices for the sake of love masks an obsession with death. This might also be seen as a tale in which romance and passion are deeply enmeshed with anxieties about mortality. Andersen's princess, in the subplot to "The Snow Queen," is more whimsical and eccentric than belligerent and bloodthirsty.
Andersen creates comic effects by moving seamlessly from descriptions of courtly fashion (guards dressed in silver and servants in gold) and the protocols and players of royal life (ministers of state, various excellencies, and a princess sitting on a throne) to the buffoon-like behaviour of the suitors, who parrot the princess's words.
45. The little fellow's boots began to creak loudly.
At his confirmation, Andersen prided himself on a new pair of boots: "My delight was extreme; my only fear was that some people would not see them, and therefore I drew them up over my trousers and marched through the church. The boots creaked, and that pleased me no end, for the congregation would know that they were brand new. I felt a terrible sense of guilt."
46. A pearl that was as big as a spinning wheel.
A precious stone with many layers, the pearl seems an odd object to serve as a throne. Its round shape and colour could be seen as evoking the moon, and its use as a throne offers a humorous touch. The allusion to a spinning wheel connects the story to the instrument whose use often provided the occasion for oral storytelling, and adds a humble touch to the royal throne. Here again, Andersen yokes a precious object with the homespun.
48. something rushed past like shadows on a wall.
Slavic folklore often features mysterious spectral horsemen representing various times of day. The hunting parties that haunt this particular castle are described as creatures from dreams, imaginative beings that can be brought to life in fiction, but that rarely inhabit fairy-tale worlds, where few characters have a dream life. Andersen had a deep fascination with the interplay of light and dark and the chiaroscuro effects produced.
49. two beds that looked just like lilies.
The chaste relationship between prince and princess becomes evident from the arrangement of the beds. The riddle princess remains locked in a state of virginal purity, unable to move to a condition of mature adult sexuality. This couple in "The Snow Queen" is presented as passionately drawn to each other, but without a trace of erotic desire. In real life, Andersen seemed unable to consummate a romantic relationship, and he makes sure that the couples in his fairy tales remain drawn to each other in powerful but chaste ways. Note the striking use of colour in this passage and how the attributes used to kindle our imagination and to help us visualize the scene have more to do with light and colour than anything else.
50. a fur muff.
She receives a carriage --one that is linked with sunshine through its gold-- [···] The carriage, with its bounty of sugar pastries, fruit, and cookies, represents pure wish-fulfillment for a child. The fetishizing of feet and hands, along with boots and muffs, is intriguing, given the chaste (and pious) register in which the tale moves.
"They're traveling in foreign lands":
The prince and princess, on the road to foreign countries, can be seen as a doubling of the leading characters (Gerda and Kai), with the prince and princess evoking adventure and voyages into the wide world.

Khac Ti Ang Thuyet, June 2014
Thesis on Andersen female characters (Excerpt)

...has supposedly married a clever and beautiful princess...
She (Gerta) is helped by the prince and princess, who give her a carriage and horse and a little pair of boots so that she might drive out again into the wide world...
the princess gives Gerda a pair of boots and a muff, a carriage and a horse, together with a coachman, footman and outrider, facilitating her journey;
...a clever princess who gave her (Gerta) a golden carriage and a horse.

These stories provide

all we need in the way of awesome images of very strong female characters, whether

good or evil: in the Fourth Story, the clever princess. They are very free in their

world. They are determined and strong-willed. They are able to make choices and

decide their own destinies. They can do what they like to make their own dreams

come true.

The princess is a supplementary character who only appears in one chapter of the

Snow Queen story, yet she is an admirable and inspirational female character. She is

clever and intellectual.

 In this kingdom where we are now, there lives a Princess who is 

very clever. She has read all the newspapers in the world and forgotten them 

again, so clever is she. One day she was sitting on her throne, which is not such 

an amusing thing to do either, they say. And she began humming a tune, which 

happened to be: “Why should I not be married?”[...]. And she made up her mind 

to marry, if she could find a husband who had an answer ready when a question 

was put to him, not one who could only stand there and look grand, for that is too 


 (Andersen, 1997, 226)

This is a refreshingly different way to introduce a character, and we find nothing so

witty, ironic, sophisticated in Grimms’ fairy tales' (18)

emphasis on a fairy-tale princess’ beauty rather than, as here, her intelligence and wit

– though in fact we do not know what this princess looks like. She decides on her own

that she wants to get married, and she then goes on to consider what kind of husband

she is looking for – one who is intelligent, “unabashed of royalty,” and who “feels at

home with her” (Andersen, 1997, 126). The man actually chosen by the princess is not

a prince but a wanderer, one with creaking boots and a knapsack on his back.

However, he is “a picture of good looks and gallantry, and then he had not come with

any idea of wooing the Princess, but simply to hear her wisdom, he admired her just

as much as she admired him” (Andersen, 1997, 129). He does not slay any dragon, but

he can match the princess’s intellect with his own rather than impressing her with

victories. Just as our looks may fade; our wealth and status might also be diminished:

only our intellect and wisdom can last. The princess is not only clever; she is generous

and sympathetic as well. She is willing to help Gerda with her new golden carriage.

At the end of the tale, the princess and her husband go away “to live in foreign

countries”. They are free, totally not bound by the traditional social roles.

(18) This would be true even if we only heard the author, or the Raven, or the princess speaking there, but in fact we hear all three in this complex passage that combines three narrative-discursive levels. 

Just like the princess, the robber girl is a very inspirational and admirable

female character. Her reward is her “complete freedom”.


A história de uma princesa que queria casar-se e para conseguir tal feito os candidatos a noivo deveriam falar bem e agradar-lhe. A princesa gostou de um rapaz.
... agora com bons trajes, botas e uma carruagem que lhe foram presenteados pelo príncipe e pela princesa.

Na quarta história, sobre um príncipe e uma princesa, o ambiente é outro e o tempo passou. Já é inverno. No conto “A rainha da neve”, o espaço físico se altera à medida que a ação se desenvolve. O espaço, além de marcar, geograficamente, o local onde ocorre a ação, vincula-se ao espaço psicológico das protagonistas.
A história de uma princesa que queria casar-se com alguém que, além de boa aparência, soubesse responder quando ela lhe falasse, pois considerava-se muito inteligente.
O noivo escolhido para desposá-la.
No terceiro dia de apresentação dos pretendentes, surgiu um rapaz com a seguinte descrição: “[...] um sujeito miúdo, sem cavalo, nem carro, marchando, audacioso e confiante, até o palácio. Os olhos dele brilhavam. Tinha lindos cabelos compridos, mas vinha pobremente trajado” (HANSSEN, 1981, p. 281). Além disso, trazia às costas uma grande mochila e suas botinas rangiam.
Outro aspecto mencionado relacionava-se à inteligência do candidato.
No caminho para os aposentos reais, passam os sonhos dos nobres. O sonho é outro elemento importante na narrativa.
 Nos aposentos, Gerda encontra o príncipe e a princesa, cada qual em suas camas,
e conta-lhes sua história. O príncipe dá sua cama para a menina descansar. Ela tem seu segundo monólogo interior: “Como são bons os homens e animais!” (HANSSEN, 1981, p. 284).
No dia seguinte, o príncipe e a princesa presenteiam-na com vestido, sapatos e uma bela carruagem com cocheiros e criados.
dando início à quinta história. Esta história, quinta, é sobre a filhinha dos salteadores e inicia-se descrevendo uma estrada escura onde a carruagem brilha como ouro e chama a atenção de salteadores que
matam o cocheiro, os criados...
De trenó, eles partem para a floresta e encontram a filha dos salteadores, que lhes conta que o príncipe e a princesa viajaram para o estrangeiro.
As personagens secundárias não saem de seu núcleo temático.

Morgens Paahus (2005)
Excerpt from H.C. Andersens livsfilosofi (The Life Philosophy of H.C. Andersen)
translated directly from the Danish by the mistress of this blog

A reality phase, where one learns independence and self-confidence and also learns to escape from the different decadence possibilities of this phase: one of which is calculating reason.

[...] - this is the second stage - to be independent and true to oneself. These skills are the ones described in the account of the little lively chap with "fine thick flowing hair, but whose clothes are shabby," who wins the princess, even though he, unlike all the others, has not come to woo the princess, but "only to hear her wise conversation," which he, thus, "liked very well." In this story, it is stressed that this skill to be oneself is something that is far from selfishness and calculations. All other suitors, except the little lively chap, are after all selfish and calculating, besides that they lose their speech (id est, lose their selves) when confused by all of the elegance that surrounds the princess.

Ashe, 20th of May 2015 (on fear of female power and social restrictions):

The Snow Queen-Fourth Story-The Prince and the Princess

The nearby Princess decided that it was time for her to be wed. She wanted to marry a man who could actually talk to her and not lose his words when he came into her presence. There had been many men, but only one had not lost his words. All the other men forgot everything they were going to say and would only repeat the last two words the princess said.
 into the castle to have a look at the prince who would not be confounded with words. 
They would have to go upstairs to the room where the prince and princess slept. As they crept up the stairs shadows of men and horses sped past them upon the walls. These were dreams flying to their dreamers. They appeared as shadows upon the wall.
 the room where the prince and princess slept, but the prince
He awoke and so too did the princess. In the morning, they straightened things out. 
The prince and princess were very kind.
the prince and princess. They had gone traveling.


The princess wanted a man who would not be intimidated by her. This story was published in the 1800s. It’s not as if this story was from the 1500s or the 1600s. Women had more of a right in the world in the 1800s than they did way back when, but powerful women have always been admired. While powerful women have always been admired, they have not been admired as frequently as powerful men, and they were still looked down upon to a degree. Speaking of the same women, they can also intimidate men. Men can be a little scared of a woman who is smarter, more powerful, older, richer, or any other number of “ers” and “mores.”
Men have this idea in their heads, not all men, but usually men have an idea in their heads of how their lives are supposed to work. They have been told they’re the ones who are expected to be the provider, breadwinner, the protector, and many other labels. When they encounter a woman who challenges their idea of what they’re supposed to be, things can get a little odd. Maybe a man is struck dumb at the sight of a woman who is more powerful and has more money than he does. How many men have had the chance to meet their celebrity crushes, only to act completely stupid when they get the chance? Women do that too, by the way.
All these men that had come to see the princess were intimidated. They took one look at her and lost their places in the world. If the princess already had her own money and her own kingdom and her own army, what good were they? The prince who did come along, obviously wasn’t bothered by any of these things. He either was comfortable with the fact that maybe the princess had more or he was comfortable with being able to offer the Princess other things and considered his other offerings just as valuable to her. Because he had this attitude, he wasn’t intimidated by this princess.
This prince teaches us a valuable lesson. Maybe you don’t have all these awesome things about you. Maybe you’re not rich. Maybe you don’t have an army. Maybe you’re not skinny, or tall, or white, or you don’t have a nice booty, whatever the case may be that you feel you lack in, you have to consider that you may not actually be lacking. You have to have the attitude that what you do have to offer, and even your perceived faults, are things that are going to be valuable to people. You have to believe that you’re good enough, even if you can’t afford caviar.


The thought of shadow dreams running all around the house when we’re asleep is kind of weird.

Weigh In

Do you think the prince and princess ended up being happy together?

Francesca Matteoni & Viviana Scarinci, 8th of December 2014

Principi, principesse e ragazze virili

l’atteggiamento diversamente felice con cui Andersen ritrae la vera principessa che abita la prossima porzione di storia

il ragazzo che ha sposato la più intelligente delle principesse disponibili sul mercato delle fiabe.

Possibile che avesse trovato quel favoloso connubio di intelligenza e nobiltà in una donna, e che ciò lo avesse reso principe?

nei pressi della stanza più segreta del castello che custodisce il talamo dei neosposideve attraversare uno strano e popolato corridoio, prima di entrare nella camera da letto. Sono i sogni degli sposi a popolare quel corridoio limitrofo al sonno: cavalli purosangue, cacce, dame, cavalieri...

E infatti principe e principessa erano solamente principe e principessa: due giovani gentili e generosi che quando seppero, invece di cacciare a pedate quella strana ragazza  che si era introdotta nottetempo nei loro sogni, la rivestirono di tutto punto e le regalarono una carrozza per andare dove volesse, e ai suoi due fratelli di volo, corvo e cornacchia, ritennero giusto restituire pari libertà.

Si viene a sapere che principe e principessa, dopo l’incontro, hanno preso la via del mondo, probabilmente stufi di una favola che li voleva così banalmente buoni e belli.

Deborah Eisenberg
Fragment from "In a Trance of Self" a nearby palace...
Evidently the princess who lives in this particular palace is very clever, and, having become fed up with the longueurs of prestige and power, has decided to get married so she'll have someone interesting around to talk to. She's advertised for a husband, but it's turned out that only one boy---out of all those who applied for the job---a poor out-of-towner, is able to maintain his presence of mind once faced with the grandeur inside the palace and carry on a decent conversation rather than merely repeating what the princess has just said.
...up a back stairway, where dreams rush by ahead on horseback on their way to take the prince and princess out hunting. ...the bedroom... the sleeping prince's back... But when the boy turns towards, waking...
Deeply moved by the story, the prince and the princess equip with fur boots, a muff, a gold chariot stocked with treats, horses, and various supernumeraries with gold crowns...
As the retinue drives through the dark woods, a band of robbers, maddened by the glare of gold, seize the chariot and slaughter the horses and all the attendants.
In answer to inquiries, she (the robber girl) announces that the prince and the princess are off in foreign lands...

And we would then see the section of the story that concerns the realm of the princess ---her palace and her courtiers--- to be an elaboration of Andersen's feelings and ideas about worldly society.